Blood testing every day is part of life for a diabetic. Whether you have type 1 or 2, you need to test your blood sugar daily. Here is why it is so important.
In a person without diabetes, blood sugar levels are managed by the beta cells and the liver.
Your beta cells are in little islands inside your pancreas. They make the insulin and other hormones that keep the delicate balance of glucose in your blood.
Eating food stimulates beta cells to release insulin. Then the hormone moves through your bloodstream to guide glucose into your cells for energy.
Without insulin no cell will take in glucose. If you have insulin resistance, your cells resist the hormone.
So sugar and insulin build up in your blood. This is the beginning of type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetics have a different story. They have lost the beta cells, so they must inject insulin constantly or die. So blood testing several times a day is life for them.
Some even use a continuous glucose monitor that checks blood sugar every few minutes.
Many type 2 diabetics do not use a glucose monitor for blood testing every day. Because they are not on insulin they do not feel the need to do this.
But research shows that the more often you test your blood sugar level, the better you will control diabetes and avoid complications.
As insulin resistance gets worse, your pancreas tries to help by producing more of the hormone. The pressure to manufacture more and more insulin leads to beta cells weakening and giving up.
Meanwhile, glucose stays in the bloodstream where it damages blood vessels, starting with your smallest capillaries.
That is why things like fingers, toes, and eyes as well as the tiny vessels that feed the heart get damaged first.
Home blood testing every day will help you
keep your blood sugar lower. The better the blood sugar control, the
less damage diabetes is allowed to do.
We can test as many times a day as we like, or we could if we were not aware of the cost or the pain in our fingertips.Some companies are working hard to make blood testing less painful and less expensive with better monitors. The hope is that we will test more often and improve type 2 diabetic control.
Oral medications for type 2 diabetics work in completely different ways from insulin, so doctors do not ask for blood testing several times a day.
But it is still good to know how well your blood sugar is controlled at mealtimes and to get a fasting baseline in the morning.
Because the complications of diabetes are slow and hidden, ignoring the disease is much too easy. But the use of blood testing at home every day reminds us of the battle we are fighting. There is overwhelming data about this.
Those who test more often have better results on their three-month hemoglobin A1C tests.
Daily blood testing at home for diabetes is simple. All you need is a monitor, test strips and lancets. Best of all, you can find glucose monitors free.
Some are much better than others, so it is a good idea to do some homework. You can also get advice from people who have tried a few.
The test strips you get will depend on your monitor, and you or your insurance must pay for them.
Often the test strips come with a small log book. It will help you keep
track of numbers, exercise, and even meal calories.
Good records help you see trends in your blood sugar. It may be hard to
remember when a hypoglycemic attack happened if you do not write it
down. Your doctor will want to know.
Glucose monitors have done much to improve blood testing. But the hemoglobin A1C is your doctor's favorite test for knowing how well you are controlling your blood sugar.
This is because it gives an average blood glucose level over a three-month period instead of the "what it is at this moment" level you get from a glucose monitor.
The numbers are easy for everyone to understand. You know that the farther
over 7 your number is, the worse your blood sugar control.
It used to be that 7 was the number you wanted. But today if it is under 6.5 you get a big thumbs up from the doctor . It feels like you have won a medal.
Why? Because your blood glucose level has been well controlled for months. Your doctor knows this will keep away, or at least slow down, those diabetic neuropathies with the long scary names.
The HBA1C used to be done at hospitals and testing clinics, but many doctors have monitors in their offices now. After only 6 minutes you will know your hemoglobin A1C number.
Now you can buy a kit from most pharmacies and online (Amazon for example) to test at home. The Bayer A1C Now test kit costs $25 to $35, and you can look online to compare prices.
One kit will do two tests, so unlike your daily glucose monitor it is a throw-away. But you only need to do it every two to three months. That might make it worth the cost to you.
[Thank you, Amy, for using my contact page to let me know about the new testing kits.]
The glucose tolerance test, or GTT, is blood testing for ruling out gestational diabetes in pregnant women, and it is the gold standard for diagnosing diabetes and prediabetes.
It's called glucose tolerance because your doctor
will check a fasting blood test with a glucose monitor. Then you will be
given a glucose mix to drink and be asked to wait.
Over the next three hours your blood sugar will be checked every hour. If at two hours your blood sugar is below 110 your glucose tolerance is normal.
it is between 110 and 126 you might be retested, because a lot of
things affect how blood sugars react, things like stress and viruses for
If your sugar is between 140 and 180 to 200, you probably have insulin resistance (or prediabetes). And if your 2-hour fingerstick is over 180 or 200 (depending on the doctor), you have a diagnosis of diabetes.
That diagnosis is how a diabetic journey begins. There is a lot to learn but there is also lots of help available for you.
There is so much you can change about what you eat and how much you exercise. Doing your own blood testing at home, on top of all these other things, may seem too much at first, but you will become an expert very soon.
If you know all the complications you can avoid, you will make testing at home a high priority from the beginning.
[Go back to the top]